Supporting local businesses key to future economic recovery

Supporting local businesses key to future economic recoveryPictured, from left, Owego Kitchen Owner Julie Lovelass and employee Lindsay Ousterout prepare to take food out for distribution. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Businesses around the area, particularly restaurants and bars, which were shut down last Monday, are bracing for the economic toll that COVID-19, or coronavirus will have on a local, national, and international level. But as the community always does, residents are encouraging each other to continue to support local businesses; whether it is with drive-up orders at restaurants, deliveries, or even gift certificates that can be used at a later date.

In an email blast last week, Tioga Tourism Director Rebecca Maffei encouraged folks to visit their Facebook Page often, Experience Tioga, for specials that will be run by businesses; this will enable residents to continue to support their efforts.

Supporting local businesses key to future economic recovery
A sign sets the stage at a food distribution point located at the Back Alley Pig, and behind The Owego Kitchen last Tuesday. By 2 p.m., residents were already waiting in line to collect a meal. (Photo by Wendy Post)

As for the businesses, however, last week’s shutdown, or reduction in services, was nothing short of crippling.

Last Monday, and in anticipation of the governor’s shutdown of bars and restaurants, several downtown businesses were already laying off employees and reorganizing for a drive-up food service option; an option that carries restrictions as well.

Julie Lovelass, co-owner of The Owego Kitchen, reported early on that they had to lay off all but five of their employees. She did explain, however, that some of her employees that have underlying health conditions volunteered to stay home as the county, as well as the nation and world deal with the current pandemic.

Over at Owego’s Parkview Hotel and Restaurant, owner Beth Johnson was scrambling on Monday to figure out how she would serve food on the restaurant’s busiest day of the year – St. Patrick’s Day.

The restaurants were prohibited from in-house service, but were fortunately allowed to serve drive-up orders. 

Supporting local businesses key to future economic recovery
Lake Street in Owego was empty on Tuesday, and following the governor’s announcement that restaurants and bars will shut down on Monday evening, and remain open for drive-up service only. Since then, gyms, casinos, and theaters have been closed as well. (Photo by Wendy Post)

“It is all curbside, and people can’t get out of their cars,” said Johnson on Monday as she quickly reorganized the restaurant’s structure, and their method of doing business.

Layoffs at the bar and restaurant, Johnson added last Monday, were imminent. 

“With schools closed, it’s hard for those with children at home to get daycare; the waitresses and waiters will also be losing out on the gratuities received from in-house service,” said Johnson.

With that said, Johnson executed their popular St. Patrick’s Day menu, curbside, for guests, and is keeping a positive attitude.

“We survived the flood, we will get through this,” exclaimed Johnson, who recalled the flooding of 2011 that arrived in the process of taking on ownership of the Irish restaurant and pub.

While speaking about the hotel, Johnson talked of the reservation cancellations arriving daily for rooms booked in advance.

“We’re hurting all the way around, but the safety of our employees and the residents of the community comes first,” Johnson added.

Over at The Owego Kitchen, Ike and Julie Lovelass were experiencing a busy day with take out and delivery last Tuesday.

The Owego Kitchen is also helping to bridge the hunger gap while area youth are out of school by providing free meals.

Funded in part by Tioga State Bank, the two have partnered to provide meals each week and will be providing information on Facebook, The Owego Kitchen, regarding the meal distribution times and days.

Last Tuesday, The Owego Kitchen had prepared dinners of baked ziti and fresh salad that it was distributing in the Back Alley Pig, located behind The Owego Kitchen and near the alley. According to Ike Lovelass, they made 100 family dinners, equating to 400 meals.

“Based on how this goes,” said Ike, “we’ll determine if we need to ramp things up. That’s where Tioga State Bank comes in.”

The Owego Kitchen has also reached out to other businesses and continues to receive assistance in this effort.

“Julie was a single mom familiar with subsidized lunches, so this was a natural thing for her to do,” said Ike of the entire effort. He added, “So far we’ll keep doing this and reevaluate as things go along.”

Other area restaurants are also participating, like Las Chicas Taqueria, The Cellar Restaurant, Original Italian, Mario’s Pizza, and River Rock Diner; and most others are offering take-out and / or delivery, and are asking for your support as we go through this difficult period of time. Patronizing our local stores and restaurants will lessen the economic impact of the pandemic.

For restaurant information, simply visit them on Facebook for notifications as to when they are serving, order your meal, and then enjoy a curbside pick up. 

As for merchants, most businesses have been ordered to maintain essential employees only, or reduce the number of staff members onboard. Health officials are asking people that are symptomatic to stay home. A full list of precautionary measures and more on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found at

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